Low-Carb Intermittent Fasting: Is it Safe and Effective?

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Update Date 14/09/2020 . 6 mins read
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People diet for many reasons. There are also a variety of diet options available. Some focus on reducing your calorie intake while others restrict themselves from all animal products. Intermittent fasting (IF) is one of today’s most popular methods in losing weight. Read on to find out what makes it so appealing and how to start low carb intermittent fasting.

What Is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Intermittent fasting is described as an eating pattern wherein you schedule your meals. The interval between periods ranges from a few hours up to 24 hours or more. Unlike other diet methods, intermittent fasting is not focused on what you eat but on when you eat. It is one of the most well-known ways to lose weight. In fact, it ranked #1 in popularity according to a 2018 survey

Research shows that this diet is helpful for successful weight loss. At the same time, it reduces risks for health conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There are many ways on how to start low carb intermittent fasting.

What Are the Different Methods of Intermittent Fasting? 

During intermittent fasting, you cycle between periods of fasting and eating. There are many approaches on how to start low carb intermittent fasting. These include: 

The 5:2 Method

This is also known as the twice-a-week approach. In this method, you limit your calorie intake to 500 calories only for two days a week. You may eat normally during the remaining five days. You may choose any day of the week as long as there is a non-fasting day in between. Incorporate high-protein and healthy fats to compensate for the low carbohydrates.

Alternate Day Method

This is a modified approach where you fast every other day. Calorie intake per day can also differ. For example, in one day you limit your meals to a certain percentage of your normal intake.

Time-Restricted Fasting (16/8 or 14/10)

During this method, choose an eating window every day. Ideally, you fast for 14 to 16 hours. This is recommended for people who are trying IF for the first time. Additionally, you fast while sleeping. Therefore, this method is convenient since you are just extending your overnight fast by not eating until noon.

The 24-Hour Method

This is also known as the eat-stop-eat approach. It involves fasting for 24 hours. It is commonly done once or twice a week. This approach, however, can cause fatigue, headaches, and low energy. Make sure you eat a normal, balanced diet during your non-fasting days. 

All these methods on how to start low carb intermittent fasting involve reducing calorie intake. This is why people find it the simplest way to lose weight. It comes down to personal preference on which approach to use, as long as you do not overeat during your non-fasting days.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work? 

Many people do intermittent fasting due to its weight loss effectiveness. In fact, a 2014 study1 found out that intermittent fasting caused a 3-8% drop in body weight over the course of three to 24 weeks. How to start low carb intermittent fasting mainly involves limiting calorie intake.

Clinical nutrition physician Maricar Esculto explained in an article2 the science behind the correlation between fasting and weight loss. Intermittent fasting allows you to eat fewer calories. She added, “It lowers the insulin level in the blood and if the person has no intake of food for a prolonged period of time, fat will be mobilized to supply the body’s energy needs.” Simply put, your body will have to use stored energy, which is a way of burning fat.

How Intermittent Fasting Causes Affects Your Metabolism: 

  • Insulin: This hormone is responsible for converting sugar to stored energy (fat). Therefore, the more you eat, the more you increase insulin levels. Intermittent fasting reverses the fat-storing process. When you fast, insulin levels decline, promoting fat burning (weight loss).
  • Human growth hormone (HGH): Growth hormone regulates body composition, muscle gain, and metabolism, among others. According to studies3, fasting stimulates HGH, making it increase five-fold. 
  • Norepinephrine (noradrenaline): This functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain and body. During intermittent fasting, this causes fat cells to break into free fatty acids which can be burned4 for energy. 

What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting? 

Before you learn how to start low carb intermittent fasting, it is important to know the health benefits you can gain. These include: 

  • Weight loss: Intermittent fasting is considered an effective strategy for weight management. Through IF, you decrease your calorie intake. As a result, your body will then use stored energy, which is a way of burning fat. IF affects hormones responsible for fat-storing. 
  • Insulin resistance: During intermittent fasting, you decrease levels of insulin. This will enable you to lose weight and consequently prevent type 2 diabetes, according to studies5. Being overweight increases your risk of the disease.
  • Improved heart health: There is evidence6 showing IF’s potential in reducing cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart rate. These are all risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.  
  • Improved brain health: Studies7 in animals show that intermittent fasting can prevent inflammation in the brain, causing neurological defects. These include stroke and Alzeihmer’s disease
  • Reduced risk of cancer: Intermittent fasting can prevent the growth of tumors according to an animal study10. Moreover, obesity is a risk factor for many cancers so weight loss is recommended.

What are the side effects of intermittent fasting? 

Intermittent fasting is a known weight loss strategy. However, it is not for everyone. How to start low carb intermittent fasting also means being aware of the following side effects: 

  • Hunger: Subjecting your body to hours of not getting food takes practice. When you are hungry, you are likely to develop erratic mood swings and overall irritability. It also affects your daily activities. You might feel tired and unmotivated throughout the day. These are things to consider, especially if you are working or doing any physical activity. 
  • Fatigue and lack of focus: Most people skip breakfast during intermittent fasting. Not getting enough energy in the morning can affect your whole day. It can make you disoriented and sleepy.
  • Orthorexia: Intermittent fasting would not work if you compensate by eating too much during your non-fasting days. This leads people to be conscious about what they eat and how many calories they are taking. Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by obsessing over healthy eating. This affects your overall well-being, especially your mental health.
  • Low blood sugar: Having low levels of blood sugar is indicated by the presence of frequent nausea and headaches. These may be prevalent during intermittent fasting.
  • Changes in menstrual cycle: Studies11 show that intermittent fasting may not be beneficial among women. Sudden weight loss can disrupt your normal cycle, causing missed periods or irregular spotting. Depriving your body of enough calories to function can be detrimental to your health.
  • Sleep disturbances: According to research12 intermittent fasting can affect rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is correlated to better memory, concentration, and cognitive abilities. 

Risk Factors 

What Increases My Risk for Intermittent Fasting Side Effects? 

Teaching your body to function without food intake for an extended period of time takes practice. It is normal to feel dizzy, tired, and hungry during this time.

However, you should consult with a doctor first before fasting if you have any of the following conditions: 

  • Any type of diabetes
  • Underweight
  • Have low blood pressure
  • Diagnosed with eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia, and orthorexia
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Taking medications
  • Have amenorrhea, or absence of menstruation

How to Manage the Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting 

Intermittent fasting can be difficult, especially for a beginner. It not only takes a physical toll on you but also affects your mental health. Listed below are tips on how to start low carb intermittent more effectively: 

  • Stay hydrated: Intermittent fasting can cause an upset stomach if you are not getting enough water. Make sure you’re staying hydrated so as to not develop problems with bowel movement. Coffee and tea are fine, as long as in moderation. Herbal teas can suppress appetite.
  • Exercise: If you can, do simple exercises before or during an eating window. This can help trigger hunger. 
  • Try different schedules: Do not just stick to one fasting approach. Make sure that what you adapt is convenient for you and fits your daily activities. For example, going on a 24-hour fasts might not be ideal if you are working. 
  • Avoid overeating: Intermittent fasting will not work if you compensate by overeating during your non-fasting days or eating window. This also includes practicing portion control.
  • Low-carb diet: Going on a low-carb diet can aid in weight loss. These foods are slowly digested and absorbed, causing a slower rise in blood sugar level. It restricts intake of carbohydrates found in bread, white rice, and pasta. How to start low carb intermittent fasting includes eating the following food: 
    • Lean meats
    • Egg
    • Leafy, green vegetables
    • Fish
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Cauliflower and broccoli 
    • Beans and legumes
    • Unsweetened dairy found in whole milk and yoghurt

Key Takeaways

Intermittent fasting is characterized by eating during a specific window of time in a day. The interval between periods ranges from a few hours up to 24 hours or more. This diet is one of today’s most popular fitness trends. Most people find intermittent fasting an effective strategy in losing weight.

It causes changes in insulin levels, hormones, and metabolism which makes fat burning easier. There are a variety of approaches to IF you can choose from.

It all comes down to personal preference and fit to your current lifestyle. Intermittent fasting is found to have health benefits, including decreasing risk for severe diseases.

However, intermittent fasting is not for everyone and can cause side effects. Maintaining a low carb diet and practicing portion control are ways on how to start low carb intermittent fasting effectively and safely.

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